Between listening to “Sugar Honey Iced Tea (S.H.I.T.)” on repeat and religiously re-watching her slay a pageant in its accompanying video, we caught up with the NYC-born artist about her city and her summer, style and partnering with Ellesse, her personal affirmations and what we can expect from new music in the works.
FIVE MINUTES WITH PRINCESS NOKIA
The NYC-born artist on her city, her summer, style and feeling strong.
Hey Princess Nokia! We last saw you perform at NYC Pride this summer. How was that experience?
It was absolutely wonderful, my team and I had a really good time.
Having grown up there, do you go every year?
Yeah, since I was 15 years old, so it was really special.
What’s special about NYC Pride?
I think that New York is a beautiful city that encompasses a lot of great diversity and inclusivity, more than any place in the world. The energy is so much more exuberant and ostentatious and all of those really great flamboyant things. So it’s just like one big happy family reunion and super gay all day.
How has your relationship with the city evolved over the years, especially since becoming an artist?
I guess I appreciate it visually, physically, emotionally. I have a lot of appreciation for my city; I appreciate everything from details to the utmost stereotypical thing. It’s the best home I could have ever asked for.
Would you ever live anywhere else?
I’d live in Puerto Rico, which is eventually what I want to do.
What else have you been up to this summer?
Just spending time with family and friends. I hosted a lot of barbeques, a lot of pool parties, spent a lot of time just playing pool with my dad and going to see my grandma and taking care of her. I’m a very family-oriented person.
What’s been the highlight?
Going on vacation to Puerto Rico. It’s a very special place and I had the best vacation of my life. It was just so peaceful, really gorgeous.
You’ve also collaborated with Ellesse on their AW19 For The Win campaign this summer. Why did you connect with the brand?
I’ve always liked the look; it’s a great sportswear brand and I’m just such a sportswear girl and such a tomboy. I‘ve always loved their pieces, so it was a perfect fit.
Do you have like a favourite piece from the collection?
Oh yes. All of their parkas were magnificent, they have great tracksuits, the ski wear is dope and all the sneakers are great!
How do you describe your style?
I’ve really realised that I have so many styles, because I’m really just a theatre kid. I’m a gay theatre kid who understands that fashion and style and drama and can interplay, because I love all those music styles and all of the subcultures. Some days I’ll look like a deadhead; it’s very hippy, very grungy. Some days it’s very punk rock, very gothic. As much as I love punk clothes, I went and saw all the punk shows; as much as I love the tomboy clothes, I played soccer every weekend in Jefferson Park where I shot a lot of 1992, and as much as I love hip-hop and beat culture, I spent all of my weekends in The Bronx breakdancing. So everything about my style has a beautiful connection to what I love. And growing up in a ballroom scene, we loved style and understood fashion so much before the internet. I think a lot of people don’t realise that I come from ballroom culture and I grew up with a lot of gay men and they all got dressed in the same way. We embodied all these styles because we were just recreating. We were kids recreating fantasies, and doing it excellently.
What is inspiring you right now?
I think strong womanhood. It’s always been my driving force and really inspires me. Great humility, great kindness, people who treat others with love and grace. I’m always just so happy to see that. What else inspires me? I just love really great art; I love really great fashion; I love really great architecture and travel. I’m always just so enamoured by things that I see every day.
What’s made you feel strong?
Becoming Princess Nokia is probably the strongest thing I’ve ever done. I’ve come from a really marginalised background. I had a lot of difficult things put against me as a child and I’ve literally just turned my life into this really beautiful miracle of accomplishment, all because of my love for the arts, my persistence on being an independent artist and just kind of doing things my way.
What do you tell yourself on the days you don’t feel like that?
I always say the affirmation ‘no weapon shall prosper against me; I do not entertain evil or negativity’. I say that probably every day. It really works.
Is that your advice to other people who look to you as a role model?
I wouldn’t want to impose anything on anyone, because my doctrine may not be the same doctrine of others. Some people may think that’s a bit too positive. I believe that if you truly blockade negativity – which is not an easy feat, of course – it erases itself from your subconscious and your memory. The more you go out of your way purposefully to not entertain negativity it really does not bother you, but you have to really fight for it. Mentally, it’s not something that’s easy and it’s not something that will just go away at the drop of a hat. Positivity is a ritual that has to be enforced!
Do you think that’s partly what’s made you so successful?
Yeah, I think I’m just a big optimistic person and have just always fought for myself and fought for my place in a world that doesn’t really understand me.
What’s next for you?
I’m working on a new record, I’ll say that. I’m working on a new album that’s very empowering and very human. I’m looking forward to making really great, stimulating, thought-provoking music and I’ve been in the studio with a lot of different musicians – not like rappers or features, just musicians – saxophonists and guitarists and drummers and my friends, you know, people that I love a lot. We’ve just been jamming and it’s been great. I got my start with jamming with jazz bands and being in the underground, so I still keep that element around and I keep a creative family around me. We just have fun, smoke weed and we make music all day. And as a person, I’m digging deeper lyrically and spiritually, always.
Princess Nokia currently stars in the Ellesse For The Win AW19 campaign.